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Honeywell Develops Technology To Produce Safer Ammonium Nitrate-Based Fertilizer

Honeywell recently announced it has developed a patented new technology to produce a highly-effective, safer ammonium nitrate-based fertilizer with significantly lower explosive potential.

The new technology has already received SAFETY Act Designation from the Department of Homeland Security under the Support Anti-Terrorism By Fostering Effective Technologies Act, which was created to provide incentives, including liability protections, for the development and deployment of anti-terrorism technologies that can help mitigate security threats.

“The unique composition of this new fertilizer makes it extremely difficult to turn it into a weapon,” said Qamar Bhatia, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Resins & Chemicals, which is one of the world’s largest producers of ammonium sulfate fertilizer. “Ammonium nitrate has long been an excellent fertilizer, but this technology makes it safer.”

Independent tests using guidelines developed with the U.S. government demonstrated that Honeywell’s new fertilizer is significantly more difficult to use as an explosive. When mixed with fuel oil -- a common method of using ammonium nitrate as an explosive -- the new ammonium sulfate nitrate fertilizer did not detonate.

The new technology fuses ammonium sulfate with ammonium nitrate, providing both nitrogen and sulfur needed for efficient plant nutrition as well as enhanced safety, quality and storage characteristics.

Honeywell is conducting pilot plant test production of the new fertilizer to finalize scale-up and engineering for manufacturing, and is also in talks with potential manufacturing partners. The company hopes to have limited quantities for sale in certain regions in 2009 and plans to market the material as Sulf-N 26 fertilizer.

Independent agronomic tests on crops and plants -- ranging from grass to cabbage and tomatoes to strawberry and oranges -- found the new fertilizer to be as effective or more effective compared to alternative fertilizers, including straight mixtures of ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate. The tests, conducted over the last two years, were completed by major universities in the U.S., Canada and Brazil.

Also, the new fertilizer is both non-hazardous and non-oxidizing as tested by United Nations and U.S. Department of Transportation standards.

Honeywell worked with the DHS and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to develop testing procedures to evaluate the explosive potential of the new fertilizer. The tests were conducted independently by Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center (EMRTC), a division of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. As part of those tests, the new fertilizer was mixed with a number of substances, including explosives, sensitizer and fuel oil. In all tests, the new fertilizer significantly reduced or eliminated the explosive power of traditional ammonium nitrate.

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